It’s fair to say that Jose Mourinho took a bit of a pasting on Twitter on Monday night, following Manchester United’s *ahem* less-than-thrilling 0-0 draw with Liverpool at Anfield.
But as the Red Devils proved last night, they absolutely have the capacity to chalk up wins while playing attacking, attractive football. Their 4-1 victory over Fenerbahce marked the first time the Turkish giants had conceded three times in the first half of any game since August 2010.
Admittedly, Chelsea pose a tougher test, but United’s attacking flair can give them all three points at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Here’s how…
Pair Pogba with Carrick
It’s no coincidence that Paul Pogba’s best displays since his return to Old Trafford have come when Mourinho has paired the Frenchman with Michael Carrick.
While Pogba’s tough tackling and surging runs have caused opponents untold problems, the 23-year-old’s passing accuracy has come into question this season – at a fairly disappointing 82 per cent.
That’s not an issue when he plays alongside the veteran Geordie, who sprayed the ball around the park to perfection against Fener, chalking up a 97 per cent pass completion rate.
With the reliable Carrick taking on the mantle with United’s distribution, the former Juventus man could focus on using playing deeper, winning the ball and letting his teammate focus on getting the ball into key areas.
For his part, Carrick’s age and injury history means he too benefits, playing alongside a midfielder whose tackles and interceptions (including two crucial ones last night) offer a steeliness to match his stylish passing game.
Corners = Goals
Logic dictates that the more a side attack, the more likely they are to force set-pieces.
The Red Devils’ ultra-cautious approach at Anfield saw them manage just one corner. By contrast, their high-intensity, expansive gameplan in the 4-1 victory over Leicester produced nine. And no side is better at making corners count than the Red Devils.
Even against a powerful Foxes side containing the likes of Robert Huth and Wes Morgan, Mourinho’s men netted two goals from corners. With the aerial prowess of Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly and several others, pressing Chelsea and forcing set-pieces should be a key aim for the visitors.
Give Lingard free rein
It may go against Mourinho’s usual conservative approach to tough away games, but the wing wizard’s performance against Fenerbahce was impressive enough to justify giving him a free role at Stamford Bridge.
Gifted with either foot, his pace and trickery mean the youngster can run Chelsea’s ageing defence ragged, while dragging the erratic David Luiz out of position wouldn’t be difficult for the Warrington native, provided he’s given a free role by Jose.
His link-up play with Pogba was a key factor in the ease with which United beat Fenerbahce yesterday, and with license to roam at Stamford Bridge, he could come deeper to collect the ball from the former Juventus man, and attack the Blues defence.
With Pogba having stolen the show against Fener on Thursday, the 19/5 for him to score anytime in west London looks like great value.
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